Alastair Cook brought up his 20th hundred in Test cricket on day one at The Oval, as the South African bowlers had their patience tested. By ANT SIMS.
Despite Andrew Strauss being sent packing for a four-ball duck on day one of the first Test between England and South Africa, the visitors faced a tough and trying day in the field as Alastair Cook brought up his hundred – his first since August 2011 – in slow, but fine fashion.
Both Cook and Jonathan Trott frustrated the South Africans as the pair combined to put on a tremendous 170-run partnership before Morne Morkel, who also dismissed Strauss early on, got the breakthrough.
“It’s been almost a year since my last Test hundred, so it’s really satisfying to get over the line today. I felt in control batting and I left the ball well,” Cook said.
“The first session was quite tough; the ball did move around a bit. The pitch is quite dry on top, so it’s quite slow, which helped us to really dig in and grind out the runs and we want to score as many as we can in the first innings. The first half an hour will be key tomorrow, we’ve had a good day, but we’ve had to work really hard for it,” he added.
The South African bowling attack looked flat and, while there wasn’t much on offer in the conditions, the bowlers lacked hostility and bowled far too widely, allowing the English batsmen to pick and choose which balls they wanted to hit.
“It was a hard day’s Test cricket. England played well and winning the toss definitely played a part. I do think we stuck to our task today, but there certainly were times where I thought we could be a bit more aggressive, but we never allowed England to run away with the day,” said South Africa’s bowling coach, Allan Donald.
On top of hardly threatening England, South Africa's bowlers struggled with their consistency too. Vernon Philander bowled five inexcusable no balls in his 16 overs, while Morkel was his usual inconsistent self with three no balls and one wide.
“There is certainly a bit of rustiness in the bowling and it is a slight concern, but it’s not a train smash at the moment. Nine balls in a day is a bit of a worry, but it’s just a bit of discipline we need to work on,” said Donald.
“Tomorrow is a new start and another try with the new ball, so we want to start over. Our goal tomorrow is to make inroads early, we have to get wickets in the morning.”
Jacques Kallis got a late wicket just before the new ball was due, when Kevin Pietersen tried to hook a short ball and AB de Villiers snatched it down the legside. South Africa will pick up on day two with plenty of work to do after England reached stumps on 267-3, with Cook still batting and Ian Bell looking solid at the other end.
“Tomorrow is a huge day for us, with the way England have played – really well – and they will certainly test us tomorrow,” Donald added. DM
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